Community Health vs. Public Health: Understanding the DifferencesCommunity Health vs. Public Health: Understanding the Differences
Is Community Health the Same As Public Health?
While they are both concerned with effective healthcare and disease prevention, community health and public health have different levels of scope. Public health deals with policies and regulations governing healthcare on a large scale, while community health focuses on a specific population sector.
Community health professionals build programs to educate specialized groups and individuals about how to maintain healthy lifestyles. They also work with local government officials to create resources that help improve communities.
A public health professional might work to limit the spread of diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS and influenza. They might also work to ensure that water, food and air are clean and safe. These professionals are often the ones who educate residents on healthy behaviors and connect them to community resources.
A community might be defined by geography, or it could be a group of people who share the same cultural background. Regardless of its size, a healthy community benefits everyone in it. It improves the quality of life by lowering disease rates and increasing access to healthcare services.
It creates jobs and fosters growth. And it provides a sense of safety and belonging. A clearer definition of what community health really means can help it to become an integral part of society. That is, after all, its goal. The question is, can it achieve that? And if so, how? The answer to both questions may lie in embracing diversity and applying innovative methods that can produce evidence that reflects the realities of communities.
Community health focuses on nurturing and protecting the wellness of the people in the areas where they live. Workers in this field connect with local residents through schools, places of worship, community health centers, government offices and social workers. They study and gather data to create a variety of resources that address the problems that the residents face, such as promoting healthful behaviors and providing access to affordable medical care.
While public health addresses the broad policies governing healthcare on a large scale and disease that affects certain groups of people, community health focuses on specific geographic regions or even individual neighborhoods. These efforts typically target groups that are underrepresented or have a harder time getting the care they need, such as immigrants and minorities. They also seek to encourage healthy lifestyles through education programs.
Community health involves a variety of different healthcare programs, which can be used to promote and protect the overall well-being of a targeted population. Although it shares some similarities with public health, including the need to create awareness and educate, it is also much more comprehensive in its approach.
Community healthcare professionals track and investigate a wide range of issues that affect the local residents, from air pollution to natural disasters, birth defects, infectious diseases like COVID-19 and more. They use their expertise to recommend policy recommendations and help prevent healthcare concerns from affecting local communities.
They work to reduce health gaps caused by race and ethnicity, culture, location and more, as well as design healthcare education programs that encourage healthy behaviors. They also address social drivers that can have a significant impact on health outcomes, such as access to transportation, education, employment and nutritious food. This is why community health is so comprehensive in its approach.
The health promotion movement is about empowering communities and individuals to take action on their own behalf. Public health professionals in a wide variety of settings work to assess needs, design programmes and deliver interventions that encourage healthy behaviors.
The approach is to a large extent ecological – addressing the broader social norms, cultural values and economic and environmental conditions that affect health behaviour. This differs from clinical preventive health care, which is a narrower focus on reducing morbidity and mortality among people with known or suspected disease through a range of diagnostic and treatment activities.
Community participation is the key to health promotion. It involves all members of a given community (whether they live in an urban or rural area) in the analysis and decision making process of programme planning and implementation. It also ensures that the benefits of a programme are equitably distributed to all members of the community. This requires commitment from all stakeholders – government, local organizations and the community itself.